Ryan Blaney says he still has ‘a lot of figuring out to do’

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA - APRIL 03: Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 Menards/Richmond Water Heaters Ford, William Byron, driver of the #24 Liberty University Chevrolet, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Mars Crunchy Cookie Toyota, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway on April 03, 2022 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Perhaps no driver was more disappointed Sunday after the checkered flag fell at Richmond than Ryan Blaney.

Blaney started from the pole and led all the first 70 laps to win Stage 1. Prior to Sunday he had never led a lap at the .75-mile short track, at the end of the day he led a race high 128 of the 400 laps run.

When it was over, all he could manage was a seventh-place finish.

“It’s tough,” the Team Penske driver said. “There were a handful of cars that could kind of run up and run in traffic pretty good and we just weren’t really good enough to run in traffic.  Once we lost track position I struggled a little bit, but it’s nice to win a stage.”

At the end of the day, he tried to look for positive takeaways.

“It’s cool to get the pole and good stage points,” he said. “We finished seventh, my best finish here.  Overall, a fun day. It was kind of frustrating because we were running so good early.  I wanted to run better, but I can’t complain about it too much.  Overall, not a bad day.  We just have to find a little bit more speed, but it was nice that we kind of put together some decent notes and have an OK run at Richmond.”

Blaney has now led a lap in every one of the seven races so far this season and scored three poles. He said Sunday he isn’t sure if it’s the new car, or the experience he is gaining every week.

“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to tell like this new car, does it suit me better here?  I don’t know. I think it’s a little bit of everything – a little bit of car, a little bit of me just trying to figure out what the heck I need to do here to run better.”

Still Blaney leaves Richmond with a dubious distinction. He has now led over 100 laps in 10 races, all of which didn’t result in a win.

“I still have a lot of figuring out to do,” he said. “But I think it’s a little bit of everything – car, us working on figuring out what we need to do to kind of hang on here and me studying some stuff, so it’s all kind of all in one.”

Photos: NASCAR at Richmond Raceway, Sunday Apr. 3, 2022